The Pollinator by Kate Wyer

photograph by Nobuyoshi Araki

text by Kate Wyer

We are all migrants here. Working with our thumbs and hands in the organic orchid field. We are all brown with the sun and some from family. We do not all speak Spanish. I speak some, enough. I dream it and can tell when I’m the butt of another’s joke. To know  slurs and insults, to roll with the subtle, confusingly slow brushes against my backside as I lean into the plants. 

"Do you shave your eyebrows?"they ask me. 

I don’t know if this is some kind of come on, if it meant something other than a literal question. My eyebrows are huge and black with a natural arch to them. I was born with them. Sometimes I have an urge to neaten, but not often. I do not tolerate a beard or mustache though. Even the slightest scrape of stubble against the back of my hand gets my gag reflex going. What’s that about, right? 

I am most drawn to the creatures who hang out with the Hare Krishnas. I’ve heard they don’t believe in sex unless you are trying to procreate. There is one in particular. She has a shaved head. I think she’s a she. There is something masculine in her shoulder. I  see them all after rain storms. They appear after the clouds have gone and the sun is shining as they beat their drums and step around the mud puddles in the street. 

 I like to watch the dogs line up behind the grocery store on my way home. It is dark and their shadows move through the streets with mine. I would like to beg the way they do. I would like to kneel and ask for food, have it handed to me directly into my mouth. I can sit. I can stay. Instead, I go home and cook beans and rice with some of the discarded vanilla pods and a little red pepper, a lot of black pepper and salt. 

Home is very full. I live with the men of the fields in all the outcroppings of semi-permanent homes. There is a shared kitchen, but no one cooks very much. Except for me. The bathroom is shared too. We have single bedrooms that are linked in an open hallway. There is plastic over the walkway, but rain still gets in, even if it isn’t windy. The room is carpeted with remnants. 

If you were my guest, I’d have you leave your shoes next to the door. 
I have to say, I always wear a hat when I’m working so the sun won’t age my face. I use some turmeric and mix into a face mask to give myself a little color. It stains my skin a slight golden color and is good for inflammation too. I know why I confuse some of the men and disgust others. There is something they don’t know how to read. I don’t know how to read it myself. It’s all very crude and approximate. 

I decide to piece my nose. I found a small earring hoop in the field today and pocketed it immediately. All day I thought it over. Yes, it should be easy enough with my quilting needle, although my standard needle may be too big. As soon as I’m home, I think, I’ll look. 

I have a small carrot that about the size of my pinky. It fits up my nose. I wash my face and hands, stick the carrot up the right nostril and then with it hanging out of my face, run the end of a needle through a flame a few times. In the mirror I test a few places with a marker and then select the dot furthest back on my nose. Grabbing the carrot to hold it in place, I then press down through my nose with the needle. My eyes immediately water a lot, but really, it’s not that bad. 

Oh, I think, I should have washed the hoop first. With the carrot and now the needle sticking out of my face, I walk to the kitchen to wash it before trying to loop it through. 

Fero is in the kitchen.  What the hell is that?, he asks. 

I blush, or at least flush. I can feel the blood in my chest rising up my throat. 
I’m piercing my nose. 

Are you crying?

No, it made my eyes water. I’m not crying. It doesn’t hurt much at all. 
He makes a move like he’s going to get up quickly. If I grab it, it will hurt. 
I move back and he laughs. 

Whatever, he says. I’m not going to touch you. 

I don’t turn my back to him as I wash the gold hoop under the hot water. 

You need to clean the hole with saline. Or soak it with salt water every day for a couple of months, he says. My sister had hers pierced in the 90’s. I still remember her sitting in front of the TV holding a washcloth to her face every night. 

How long do I soak it?

I don’t remember. I just remember it takes a few months to completely heal. 

Why did you pierce it? The nostril too. You could have at least pierced through here, he says and pinches the septum. You have the ring, like the bull. 

I don’t answer him. I want to get the needle out of my nose because it is starting to throb. 

Thanks, I say, and exit hurriedly to my room. 

Once inside I twist the needle a few times and then bend hoop open. If I had a stud it would be so much easier. 

The needle is stuck into the carrot and I can’t get it to slide out without pulling the needle out of my nose. I should have picked something harder that wouldn’t be penetrated. 

I watch his eyes as they scan me. I wonder what he notices. 

The longer he holds my face the more blood moves, the more quickly it moves. Despite this, I worry about breaking out where his oily fingers linger on my chin. I haven’t yet tried to wiggle out. 

He moves his torso closer to mine, closer until it is just a fist’s distance away. I feel his heat and can smell his supper on his breath. 

His eyes finally move onto my face. There is mild surprise across his eyebrows. 

I don’t know if I wanted him to drop my face or crush it. Or kiss it. 

His hand goes to my crotch. He gives a strong squeeze and then releases, steps back. My hand finds his waist and I attempt to pull his body towards me until his crotch is against mine.  
It’s clear the moment is over though. 

He resists and moves to open the door. 

Don’t steal my goddamn avocados, he says.

Kate Wyer is the author of the novel Black Krim, which was nominated for the Debut-litzer from Late Night Library. Her manuscript, Girl, Cow, is a semi-finalist for the Omnidawn Fabulist Fiction Chapbook Contest. Wyer's work can be found in The Collagist, Unsaid, PANK, Necessary Fiction, Exquisite Corpse, and other journals. She attended the Summer Literary Seminars in Lithuania on a fellowship from FENCE. Wyer lives in Baltimore and works in the public mental health system.